Putin’s bolstered Soviet-level defence budget is very troubling for the West, as Washington’s faith in Ukraine war effort waversLeonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), remains an immutable feature of the first Cold War.
Brezhnev was the ultimate communist bureaucrat, having survived Stalin’s purges, and having risen to the top of the party, he was determined both to stay there and to ward off challenges.
He presided over a period which the Russians still recall as being the era of stagnation.
Little happened by way of reform in either politics or the economy and ultimately the Soviet Union collapsed of its own corrupt inertia.
But Brezhnev combined Stalinist rigidity with a preparedness to be ruthless.
He proved that in crushing the Prague spring in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and by the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan a decade later.
Like Vladimir Putin, he did not hesitate to assume the mantle of a Russian czar when Russian interests were involved.
The Russian Duma (parliament), with the assent of Vladimir Putin, has now confirmed that we are in a second Cold War.
This is reflected in Putin’s signature on the Russian military and national security budget for 2024.
The budget reverts to the spending on Russian arms and the apparatus of oppression of the Brezhnev era.
Some 30 per cent of the Russian national budget will be devoted to the military, a record amount for modern times, particularly given the demands of the Ukraine war.
Nearly 10 per cent more will be devoted to national security – which is really just code for the oppressive Russian agencies and security services of the police.
The Kremlin has dusted off the slogans of the USSR and set a high bar to Washington by committing some 30 per cent of Russia’s national budget to the military, writes Stephen Loosley. Picture: Getty Images
These figures bear an extraordinary resemblance to similar figures of Soviet expenditure during the first Cold War.
Even allowing for the fact that at least 20 per cent of this budget will be stolen in Putin’s kleptocracy, these commitments to arms and armies are very troubling.
By revealing comparison, the corresponding figures for US and Australian defence spending are respectively 12 per cent and 6 per cent of national budgets.
The dramatic increases in Russian military expenditure, with corresponding reductions in social spending by Moscow, including in health and education, send an unmistakable signal about enduring Russian ambitions.
Moscow is embarked upon a long period of confrontation in a Second Cold War with the West.
It is instructive to note that the Soviet Union could not maintain a military competition with the United States, particularly during the Reagan presidency and the US embrace of the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI).
Its system cracked, as was identified first by Yuri Andropov and then by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Putin risks a similar conclusion, with the impact of Western sanctions and an already creaking economy.
For example, Russian airlines are having to decommission planes because of a lack of spare parts.
The West however, is not meeting the Russian challenge in Ukraine with anywhere near the continuing robust posture which is required.
There are rumblings within Europe about the continuing need to support Kyiv’s war effort.
It is perhaps worse in Washington DC.
As argued in this column previously, the outcome of the Ukraine war will be determined in the marble halls of the US Congress.
And here the signs are not encouraging.
The failure of the Congress to pass President Biden’s aid budgets for Ukraine, Israel and for Taiwan is disquieting.
The partisan arguments over aid packages being linked to border security with Mexico are of comfort only to dictators abroad.
The Biden administration’s proposals at the moment are subject to the kind of stalemate that we see in the front line of Ukraine today.
This is not to say that the West on occasion is not responding appropriately to the clear emergence of threats from authoritarian regimes.
The discussions in San Francisco between the US, UK and Australia recently on closer AUKUS cooperation, remind everyone that the Indo-Pacific is subject to change in both directions with powers as diverse as Japan and India and the traditional western allies being committed to preserving peace and security.
But in the Kremlin, as they dream of Donald Trump returning to the White House, the slogans of World War Two have been dusted off by the Putin regime: “Everything for the Front” is a classic example.
The truth is far less inspiring: “everything for Putin and his cronies” would be a much more accurate indication of the division of spoils in Russia.
As always, the troops will have to look after themselves.
This is not a fate which should befall Ukrainian men and women in uniform.
Source : Sky News